Ansonia Riverwalk headed to Torrington
ANSONIA-On a sunny, humid Friday Donna Henry and her dog, Ryder find nothing more invigorating then a walk on the recently opened Pershing Drive section of the city’s Riverwalk.
“This is great,” said Henry, who walks to the new Pershing Drive entrance from her Bassett Street home. “I used to have to go all the way down to Division Street, now we can get on here and walk back. We do it about three-to-four times a week.”
And Henry can’t wait for the next segment to be built which will take the Riverwalk through Bridge Street down behind the Target Shopping Center where a Lighthouse with an observation deck will be built on levy.
“We’re going to call it Charger Point,” said Mayor David Cassetti. “It’ll be the beacon of the Valley.”
And if it were up to Cassetti there would be no stopping the Riverwalk’s extension.
“I want to see it go through Main Street or up Olson Drive through the Woodlot along Route 8into Seymour and eventually Torrington,” the mayor said. “There’s a pathway already near Haynes in Seymour.”
Cassetti’s dream is not far-fetched.
That’s the plan according to Jack Walsh, a Derby historian and co-chairman of the Naugatuck River Greenway and Rick Dunne, executive director of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments.
“If everything is done in 20 years that would be remarkable,” said Walsh. “But this is not a pie in sky project.”
Dunne said pieces are already being built like the fish bypass at Tingue Pond in Seymour.
“We’re looking a building a pedestrian bridge to Veterans’Memorial Park,” he said.
Other sections in Beacon Falls, Naugatuck and Watertown are complete or nearly complete while Torrington and Waterbury are in the planning stages.
Dunne said there are two ways Ansonia can connect to Seymour while going along Riverside Drive. It could be taken up through the Ansonia Copper and Brass property through Liberty Street up the North End and into downtown Seymour. Or they can go through the Woodlot up on Riverside Drive along the Naugatuck River past the former Rapp’s Paradise Inn.
“In our next long range plan we are looking at re-routing Route 334 which is Franklin Street,” Dunne said. “We’d like to take the Route 8 exit 19 at the old Rapp’s Paradise Inn down behind Franklin and connect it to Maple Street.”
How fast any of these proposals goes depends on economic development and roadway projects which they prefer to “piggyback on...Private developers love to build this kind of public walkway because it increases the value of their projects.”
Both Dunne and Walsh said the Derby Greenway which runs from Division Street through the downtown to the Derby-Shelton bridge “is the most used greenway in the state.”
“Not only have studies shown the economic benefits are good but the health benefit (of people walking, jogging and cycling on it) is one of the largest impacts,” he said.
On Wednesday, Cassetti and former seven-term Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe cut the ribbon opening the Della Volpe-Cassetti Copper City Pathway bridge which takes the Greenway from Pershing Drive over the Metro-North Railroad down to Division Street where a walk across the street connects it to Derby..
The Rev. Patrick Burns with the help of his Sub-Deacon Paul Juzwishen of the nearby Three Saints Russian Orthodox church blessed the bridge, which last month had some hate-filled and demonic graffiti sprayed on it.
“There are always people trying to bring the good things down,” said Burns, Three Saints’s pastor. “But if the good keep doing good things the bad people will change. This is a good thing and I thank the mayors for it.”
Burns said he walks it “several times a week with my children.” His wife, Mara, walked alongside with their children Brigid, 8, Dorothy, 6 and Simeon, 4. “This is a national success story. It is such a blessing for the people.”
It was back on April 21 that the 130-foot pedestrian bridge was installed over the Waterbury-Bridgeport rail line on Pershing Drive. Crews from Waters Construction of Bridgeport and Luchs Consulting Engineers /DeCarlo and Doll of Meriden guided the 80,000 weathered steel bridge between two concrete segments.
The next phase will wind around Bridge Street alongside the Target Shopping Center where the Charger Point Lighthouse with its observation deck will be built on a Naugatuck River levy.
Last summer the city received $1,368,494 in funding for that segment. The money came from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternative Program, the state Department of Transportation, the Bridgeport Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments.
Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director, said bidding will take place later this month with the hope to start the project by the end of the year.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Henry holding Ryder’s leash as a cyclist passed by. “I hope the mayor is right and they take it into Seymour. We’ll walk it.”